24.10 – 24.11.2018
A solo exhibition by Heidi Fourie
Lilac Chaser is Heidi Fourie’s second solo exhibition at Salon91. The show marks a move away from more typical landscape formats to embrace concerns with contemporary perception. Her imagery is inspired by hikes in Grootkloof in the Magaliesberg region, which is characterised as being a shady and dramatic abyss with unique rock formations and reflective pools. Fourie describes the experience of being in the kloof as confronting a mysterious and unfathomable landscape characterised by notions of the hidden or mystical.
In applying her painter’s eye to the experience of natural space, Fourie translates the immersive state of being in the landscape into a journey within paint. She interrogates the tools of her trade: colour theory, the material quality of paint and the demands of illusionary visual perception, into a confrontation with the inner struggle demanded of the artist in the act of creating.
The term, Lilac Chaser, refers to a visual illusion also known as the Pac-Man illusion. The illusion involves the eye perceiving a green disk when all that is represented are lilac disks on a grey field. The term succinctly holds together Fourie’s various concerns in this new body of work. From the very personal experience of manifesting the missing the colour green amidst the brown winter landscape of Pretoria to the more philosophical, painter’s journey: how to express the hidden and mystical experiences of landscape within illusionary qualities of paint.
GREEN IS THE COLOUR | Written by Natasha Norman
The late Capetonian writer and poet, Stephen Watson, writes fondly of walking in Table Mountain range as a “stepping inside, not outside” of experience. “Consciousness has its doodles,” he muses, “and walking has a way of setting them off.” For him, as for Heidi Fourie, walking or hiking the world beyond our urban infrastructure has a way of revealing a certain inner realm, what Watson also describes as a ‘confrontation with otherness.’ Fourie’s experience of hiking the Groot Kloof Nature Reserve in the Magaliesburg Region in the middle of a dry, brown Pretoria winter, finds expression in this body of paintings as a confrontation with the edge of intellectual activity and the mysterious nature of the colour ‘green’.
In the dreamy, unknowable spaces of natural gullies and steep waterfalls where “light, washed clean, salts the shadows with a blackness” (Watson again), Fourie is confronted with a sense of mystical appreciation she can only describe as awe. This immersive experience has encouraged her to move away from the typical landscape format in her works in favour of long vertical canvases that stand together in formation or in reference to scenic windows. In this way, she foregrounds the act of looking out on landscape as one fraught with visual constraints, highlighting the limitations of convention in expressing experience.
Taking the experience of Groot Kloof back to the studio, Fourie has initiated an interrogation of perception, beginning with the techniques of painting. The reductive or removed mark, which has consistently been a feature of her work, is here combined with a more methodological approach to colour. In her pursuit of the non-visible or that part of experience that one feels rather than sees she has aptly cited the Pac-Man illusion, lilac chaser, in evoking the invisible.
The lilac chaser illusion gained popularity on the Internet in 2005. It results from the combination of the phi phenomenon (the illusion of perceiving continuous motion from a series of still images viewed in rapid succession) and the afterimage effect. When the eye is exposed to a circle of lilac colour on a grey or neutral surface, and that colour vanishes, one perceives a circle of the complementary colour, green, in its place. In a gif of lilac circles appearing and disappearing in succession, one perceives a green circle appearing to ‘chase’ the disappearing lilac circle. Physiologically, the human sense of perception consistently causes one to perceive colours that are not actually present in a space. One is reminded of the artist James Turrell’s light installations in museums and galleries where rooms flooded with a bright hue cause a viewer to see the complimentary hue, as vividly, upon exiting the room. As the afterimage in the mind’s eye fades, so the illusion vanishes.
In addition to colour, Fourie has interrogated mark and texture in this series by including a series of collages created from the paper palettes she uses while mixing paint. In a conscious consideration of the tension between spontaneity and intention in the creative process, she exposes the shift between the generative decision making in painting to the curated decision making of collage. Whether found or created, the mark is as important a vehicle of perception in painting as colour. So much can be deduced from a mark’s temperament, functioning like the adjectives or adverbs of a text. Laden or erased, heavy or light, Fourie’s descriptive mark is isolated as a found object from her palette and recontextualised in a collage, exploiting a double game of illusion and materiality.
Even if one is intellectually aware of the illusionary nature of perception, or the techniques employed by artists to create illusionistic spaces of pictorial depth, it does not prevent one from experiencing it. As such, this physiological experience sits at the edge of intellectual activity as a means of seeing the invisible. While Fourie’s exhibition is titled Lilac Chaser, an understanding of its meaning reveals it to be nothing to do with the colour lilac, but rather that which is invisible and mysterious. As David Gilmore crooned in 1969, “Green is the colour of her kind, quickness of the eye deceives the mind.”
Ref: Stephen Watson, 2010. The Music in the Ice: On Writers, Writing and Other Things. Penguin Group: South Africa.
Marco Beramini, 2016. “Lilac Chaser Illusion” in Vision, Illusion and Perception. [online] (www.reserachgate.net.)
Pink Floyd, 1969. “Green is the Colour” from the Album, More. Lupus Music Co.:U.K. Composed by Roger Waters, originally sung by David Gilmour.